How to Take a Double Exposure


Today I’m breaking down the exact steps you need to take a double exposure. Whether you are just starting out or could use some help troubleshooting, I hope you grow creatively and have some fun with your film! 

how to take a double exposure on film

What is a double exposure?

A double exposure is simply two photos, or exposures, taken on the same frame of film. Of course, you can do this with a digital camera, but today we are just focusing on film photography. 

The process is the same whether you are using 35mm or medium format film. So let’s dive into the two ways to take a double exposure.

Taking a double exposure on a single frame

Since double exposures are just two photos taken on the same frame of film, the easiest way to do them is by turning off the automatic film advance on your camera. It’s typically a switch or button, and this will cause the camera to not move the film forward to the next frame until you take it off of double exposure mode. 

Warning: It’s very easy to take a triple or quadruple exposure in this setting accidentally, so read your camera manual carefully. 

Tip: Start by using the last 2-3 images of your roll to practice double exposures in case of camera/advance errors. 

If you’re unsure of where to find double exposure mode on your film camera, try googling your camera’s manual. You will find detailed instructions there. 

Prompt: Take a photo of a profile and then the clouds. 

Double exposing an entire roll of film

Double exposing an entire roll of film is when you shoot it, rewind it, and shoot on top of it again. Where a lot of thought and care can be taken when shooting one double exposure at a time, shooting an entire roll of double exposures is a roll of the dice. 

Think of it like a fun, creative experiment. You have no idea what you’ll get back unless you’ve taken note of what was shot on each frame the first time through. 

Prompt: Shoot an entire roll of portraits followed by an entire roll of flowers.

Step by Step Instructions for How to Take a Double Exposure 

double exposure on film tutorial

1. Start with the portrait

The highlights will lose the most detail; so to have a good silhouette, place subject against a white wall, the sky, or backlight them. Rate for 1-2 stops underexposed and take the photo.

Grab my favorite tool for exposing film correctly here.

2. Add in the detail

The details and shadows of the subject will be preserved, so anything else you take a photo of will act as a filler to their portrait. Pick what item you want to overlay and shoot the second frame.

3. Frame Intentionally 

Use the rule of thirds to remember where your portrait was taken so you can frame the detail shot with intentionality.

I hope you’ll give double exposures a try. They can be such a beautiful way to add a little creativity to a client’s gallery or your own personal work. Have fun, and be sure to tag me on instagram @mamagracepaul if you put these tips to use!

Grace Paul is a Nashville-based mama, photographer, educator, and blogger. She loves helping other photographers grow in their businesses and art. To learn more about virtual mentorships, online education, and 1:1 in-person retreats, visit her education page.

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